NEW YORK -- Some interested observers are ready to send flowers and heartiest congratulations on the proposed acquisition of GFT by Plaid Clothing Group, while others are keeping a more open mind.
Giancarlo Giammetti, chief executive officer of Valentino -- one of GFT's key designer labels -- noted he met with Plaid executive vice- president and general counsel Joseph G. Riemer 3rd in Rome the last week of March. "All of the potential buyers of GFT tried to impress us with the possibility of working directly with us," Giammetti said. "I want to judge their possibilities with regard to GFT. The important thing is what they can do for GFT."
As for the Plaid people, he said: "They seem very serious. I like what I read about Plaid and the people who own it. I hope everything will go well and that there won't be any pulling back this time."
Giammetti said he hoped the deal would go through, because he doesn't think the banks that are effectively holding GFT are prepared to become shareholders in the company or able to give GFT the kind of turnaround it needs.
Giorgio Armani said through a spokeswoman that he had had a "brief encounter" with a group of Plaid officials, though he said this was too brief to be able to make an assessment of the American company. He noted that any candidate to acquire GFT should be judged first of all on the basis of its intention to respect the integrity of GFT, and second on its ability to reorganize the company's internal structure so as to help alleviate GFT's present difficulties.
"The important thing," the designer stated, "is to make sure that the restructuring GFT has done so far is continued so that it can achieve a continuous upswing and be rid of the problems that have plagued it."
Bud Konheim, president of Nicole Miller Ltd., New York women's apparel manufacturer, said he has met Plaid owner Omar Z. Al Askari through his licensee J. Schoeneman Inc., Baltimore, a Plaid divison, which manufactures Nicole Miller's men's tailored clothing and tuxedos, as well as women's blazers.
"They are not just committed to their businesses, but they are committed to the idea of style," Konheim said. "It's been a great marriage for us because they have encouraged us to expand our men's wear while preserving the integrity and design element of what we do."Konheim feels Plaid would be a good purchaser for GFT because they have a solid financial picture and have proven successful at marketing designer labels.
Men's wear retailers, familiar with both companies, seem particularly upbeat.
Derrill Osborn, vice president and director of men's clothing, Neiman Marcus, said: "I think the deal would be like apple pie and vanilla ice cream. The two together are irresistible. "Knowing some of the executive players at Plaid in America and knowing the executives at GFT in Italy, I feel the acquisition would marry two great industrial families." Stan Tucker, vice president and men's fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue, said: "Looking at this as an American retailer, I think the acquisition will be good for GFT's business, because the company will have the input from a U.S. manufacturing and marketing point of view.
"Because of the relationships that Plaid has through its divisions, the transition should be seamless considering their expertise in clothing manufacturing and marketing."
Competitors also seemed ready to join the chorus of approval. Said Sergio Garretti, president, Marzotto USA, a worldwide competitor of GFT: "From what I know, Plaid is a company of financial investors, and my impression is they will control GFT as a stockholder and leave the present management to continue in place.
"GFT's financial problems will probably be solved and its operations will continue to be what they are today and continue to be a major factor in the international apparel market. I welcome them back in their new role." However, New York-based Domenico Toselli, president of Fintarget USA, women's apparel manufacturer, and formerly president of the Compagnia Internazionale Abbigliamento USA Corp. division of Gruppo Legler Polli of Milan, questions whether a non-Italian company can step in and take over GFT and it cadre of designer licensees and egos.
"It's not an easy job dealing with all those designers like Armani or Ungaro," Toselli said. "In fact, it's probably one of the most difficult jobs in the industry."
Toselli also said he feels that GFT has started to turn their financial picture around, and wonders if the best scenario might not be for the company to remain in its current hands.
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